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Supporting school meals and local farmers in Ghana and across Africa

Around 25 million children go to school hungry in Africa, which has a detrimental impact on their learning.

Analysis conducted jointly by the World Bank, the World Food Programme and the Partnership for Child Development has shown that children who are hungry do less well in their studies. For example, non-verbal reasoning scores for pupils in Kenya were shown to be lower in schools which didn’t provide a daily meal.

Set up a decade ago, an African-led movement which supports school meals has been expanding programmes across the continent. Called Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF), the movement additionally spearheads the sourcing of local produce to benefit smallholder farmers. Linking school meals to local growers builds stronger and more secure rural communities, as well as helping to ensure children are healthier and learning to their full potential.

In Ghana, successful HGSF schemes are run as part of the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP). This is one of the largest school feeding programmes in Africa. Growing steadily since its launch in 2005, the GSFP now feeds over 1.4 million children across 4,500 schools.

Although it involves effective collaboration with the education, health and agriculture ministries, the GSFP is run from the ministry for local government and rural development. This allows for a better focus on local food production and on the growth of incomes in rural areas, building food security particularly in deprived communities. And through HGSF programmes, small growers have access to a market which is stable and structured, and provides predictable demand.

In some regions of Ghana, smallholders are also given extra support through the World Food Programme. Its ‘Purchase for Progress’ initiative helps farmers increase their productivity so they can join a list of local suppliers who provide foods such as maize, beans and rice to WFP-sponsored programmes. In the Tamale and Tolon-Kumbungu districts of the Northern Region, for example, over 520 smallholder rice producers have been receiving training on how to increase yields and become competitive players in the marketplace.

In communities where often two-thirds or more of people make their living from agriculture, the working together of schools and growers benefits children doubly. They not only receive a healthy meal made from fresh local produce, their families are better able to support their education because they have a higher household income. All in all, it’s a win-win situation and no surprise that HGSF schemes are now planned or implemented in at least 11 African countries.Laurinda Luffman signature